Mostly Nude navigates how these shifts permeate differently in each artist and their work; sometimes as a continuity of values from classicism, sometimes as objects of experimentation, parody or shock value. The exhibition coincides with gallery owner Tim Jefferies 40 year of championing fine art photography through his involvement with Hamiltons.
A genre in its own right, the Nude often implies an external look on feminity which transcends the nakedness or clothing of the model but is defined by a particular interaction of ‘self’ and ‘other’.
Cindy Crawford, here captured by Helmut Newton in St Tropez in 1991 for American Vogue, expressed on several occasions the transformative nature of being photographed both by Newton and Herb Ritts. Crawford’s contemporary, Naomi Campbell, here photographed by Herb Ritts captures the supermodel phenomenon of the 1990s which brought individuality as never before to the figure of the model shaping fashion forever and paving the way for collaborations with photographers, musicians and many other interdisciplinary artists.
“The way Herb photographed you was the way you wanted the world to see you. Herb saw the best in everyone, so that’s how he photographed you… For a model it’s very unsatisfying to come in when the photographer’s already worked out the photo: Where’s me in this picture? I never felt like that with Herb. You definitely felt like you made a contribution.” - (Cindy Crawford)
Annie Leibowitz’s Georgia O’Keeffe Pastels is part of one of the photographer’s most personal series. This, unlike her celebrated portraits, feature no bodies but spaces and objects that are representative of the sitter. If the nudes of Georgia O’Keeffe taken by Alfred Stieglitz remain depictions of their complex relationship, Annie Leibowitz’s work presents us a delicate testimony of the box of pastels with which the mother of American modernism had captured femininity throughout her career in very different terms to the ones she posed for. This extraordinary spiral of photographer-model-artist-photographer encapsulates in one image the very personal and varied interpretations of female form that different artists and mediums have.
As with Leibowitz, Irving Penn’s featured work is part of the most extensive personal series of the modern master. In 1947, Irving Penn was eager to take pictures of models with different bodies and attitudes from those he captured whilst photographing for Vogue. The closeness of the nude parallels the proximity of the project to the artist, a conscious redirection of his camera far from the prescribed standards of 1940s fashion editorials. Nude No. 150 is one of the most extraordinary pieces of this unorthodox series which alongside other works featured in the show such as Erwin Olaf’s Mature Series or Bettina Rheims’ Dafne C. subvert the genre of the Nude examining body image, gender and age.
Some works, like those by William Helburn or Sante D’Orazio, appear as an omen for the later significance they were going to have in our recent visual culture. Both Sharon Tate’s tragic destiny now revisited in numerous mainstream cultural productions and Pamela Anderson’s recent reclaim of narrative reaffirm the endless potential of photographers and models working together to bear icons.
This exhibition celebrates Hamiltons Gallery pioneering history of establishing photography as an art form in its own right, enabling the space today to see through the history of the medium and its impact on ubiquitous visual references. Be it through Horst P. Horst’s Odalisque I interpretation of neoclassicism in early photography or Erwin Olaf’s ability to poke fun at standards, Mostly Nude gathers pioneers from 20th century photography, modern masters as well as contemporary ones, in an exhibition that celebrates the excellence of the medium that has accompanied Hamiltons Gallery in its 40 year history.